On the heels of the ever-present employee-driven trend of “quiet quitting,” its employer-driven sibling “quiet hiring” has become an important tool for leaders in an uncertain economic environment. Ranking as one of Gartner’s 9 Future of Work Trends for 2023, quiet hiring offers employers the flexibility to fill open job roles under the radar, either by tapping existing talent within a company or hiring contractors on a targeted project-by-project basis.
“We’re likely to see economic ups and downs for the foreseeable future in this ‘rolling recession.’ The advantage of quiet hiring is that employers can pivot quickly based on what the current business needs are,” says Jenn Lim, CEO & Co-Founder of coaching firm Delivering Happiness. “Open roles can be filled more quickly, and you have people who know the culture and know the way things work within a company.”
The result can be a cheaper and faster alternative to hiring through traditional means like outside recruitment or public-facing job boards. But quiet hiring isn’t something to embark on blindly; it requires intention and clear communication, both before moving employees around and consistent follow-up after.
Bypassing Historic Biases
Quiet hiring has been around a lot longer than the trendy term for it. But the practice has often been misappropriately used to add additional work with no additional compensation for women, and can especially burden non-white women.
“For women and especially women of color, quiet hiring sounds very similar to a too-familiar practice they have experienced before,” says Gena Cox, Ph.D, inclusion expert and Founder of Feels Human. “For those who have less access to traditional power paths, organizations often move them around with little regard to their personal needs and preferences.” Rarely have companies done the additional legwork to ensure those employees are fairly compensated for the additional labor.
Companies may also try to mitigate their risk onto the employee, trying a “see-what-sticks” plan. “Women do not need to be pawns in that experimentation,” says Dr. Cox. “Organizations can manage all of this downside by carefully explaining why they are asking a person to make this move and by making sure it is not positioned as a one-way proposition where only the organization wins.”
Women also can often be some of the first to jump at the opportunity to prove themselves in this kind of environment, so leaders need to be attuned to the possible pitfalls. “People are willing to work hard and take on extra tasks with the promise of career expansion, but if those promises don't materialize, it's a recipe for burnout, dissatisfaction, and ultimately searching elsewhere for employment,” says Candace Barr, Founder of Strategic Resume Specialists. “It can be a win-win for both company and employee, but only if clear boundaries are set and promises are kept.”
Lim suggests framing it as a dating scenario, a trial to see if it is a good fit on both sides. If you’re assigning someone additional tasks or responsibilities, set a specific date to check in, evaluate, and be ready for a compensation conversation. “Then it’s already expected from the getgo that this is part of the transition, and there's a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how it turns out,” says Lim.
Treat Your Staff Like People Not Pawns
After identifying a potential fit for a possible role or project, don’t assume they want the role. “Even having quick conversations with the people you’re thinking of quiet hiring makes a huge difference,” says Lim. “Understand their goals, even if it’s a short-term change, to understand if it’s a good fit all around, not just good for the org chart.”
Clear and specific expectations should be set at the get go, and employers should outline what support they will provide, says Michelle Rhee, Co-Founder of apprenticeship platform BuildWithin. “Adding expectations and duties to a team member’s plate has clear advantages for the employer, but the employee should feel there’s just as much in it for them,” she says. If workers see a chance to advance their career and develop skills in a lower risk setting, the opportunity for professional development can be appealing — and organizations can benefit by bolstering the constantly challenging C-Suite pipeline.
Tracking Beyond the Trend
While workplace buzzwords like “quiet quitting” and “quiet hiring” have busted into our lexicon at breakneck speed, it can be helpful to recognize that these concepts are all things that have existed for a long time in the workplace.
“These are just trends. The bigger picture requires us to focus on the fact that the way we work has changed forever,” says Lim. “For us, as leaders, we need to be adaptable and creative about how to address those changes — not just assuming we know what needs to happen, but actually listening attentively, and getting creative in how we test new things.”
When it comes to “quiet hiring,” being a bit louder may be the strategy both leaders and employees should employ.